By Brooke Holt
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.” - 1 Corinthians 14:20-22
The Apostle Paul was not known for beating around the bush. He was one who got straight to the point about spiritual matters. For three chapters, Paul has been dealing with spiritual gifts but especially the gift of speaking in tongues. While the Corinthians heralded the gift of speaking in tongues, Paul was concerned about the orderliness of the church and the maturity of those exercising the gift. It was one thing to have a gift; it was another to steward the gift well.
In his straightforward way, Paul told the Corinthians to grow up and stop behaving like children. Why such hard words? Because church services were to be about the Lord, glorifying his name, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Corinthians’ practice of speaking in tongues made it more like a carnival where each performer sought to outdo the other. Worship had become about their spiritual performances and their own personal glory.
To shake them from their childlike slumber, Paul reminded them of the words spoken to the nation of Israel through Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah faithfully called God’s people to rest in him, to trust in him, and thus to obey his word (Isaiah 28:11-12). Despite his strong warnings, the Israelites continued in their sinful ways, and God brought judgment on them. That judgment came through strange tongues as the nation of Assyria overtook Israel. God’s people were taken captive by people who did not speak their language and constantly addressed them in a foreign tongue.
Thus, tongues were not always a sign of God’s blessing. For the nation of Israel, foreign tongues were a sign of God’s judgment. Paul called the Corinthians to recognize their childish ways and understanding of the spiritual gifts and then to grow up in the Lord. While God longed to bless the Corinthians with these spiritual gifts, they were responsible to become mature in faith and to exercise the gifts in a way that glorified God and edified the church.
How might the Lord be inviting you to grow up in him today? Are there ways in which you have not matured in your faith? Prayerfully consider how that spiritual maturity may allow you to more faithfully exercise your own spiritual gifts to the glory of God and the edification of the church. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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